Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Poogi Galuak is an eleven year old boy who became a refugee in the first year of his life. His mother, Theresa, was also a refugee who left her native Unity, now part of South Sudan, when she was eight to live in Khartoum where she met her husband Galuak. Both Theresa and Galuak are from the Dinka tribe and are practicing Christians. Galuak is a minister in the church.
When Poogi was one year old, his parents took him and three older siblings to Cairo, Egypt to flee the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). The family lived and worked in Cairo from 2003 to 2007 but fled to Israel, by foot, after repeated attacks and other human rights violations. By this time, they had added one more son to the family.
In 2007, Galuak led his family into Israel. Upon arrival, they were taken to South Tel Aviv by the military and left to rebuild their lives. Poogi was five years old when he arrived in Israel, having already fled his home twice.
Tel Aviv, Poogi’s new hometown, had a progressive approach to refugee absorption and tried a variety of ways to educate the children. Many people are familiar with the Bialik-Rogozin School because the movie about it, Strangers No More, won an Oscar. At the Bialik-Rogozin School, children of foreign workers and refugees study together in Hebrew with a student body from all over the world. Poogi’s parents were not sure if this was the best idea for their children. They wanted the loving environment and good education, but they were concerned with their children’s acculturation into Israeli society. Instead of sending the children to Bialik-Rogozin, they chose the other option Tel Aviv provided for them. Inspired by the outcomes of the American Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the city tried bussing kids to good schools in the north. Poogi and his two sisters ended up in the Aran School next to the Sde Dov Airport.
At Aran, Poogi contended with some racism, but ultimately thrived. He was admitted into the Israel Baseball League and made many friends. His family remained in Tel Aviv until 2012 when they were forced to return to the fledgling country of South Sudan. This was the third time in his short life that he was forced to leave his home. After a brief quiet and period of hope, civil strife became civil war and Poogi was moved again. This time he was placed in a boarding school, Trinity Primary School, in Kampala, Uganda. To his good fortune, a family of one of his Israeli classmates is paying his tuition. All of Poogi’s five siblings are now in the school, but the parents remain in Juba, South Sudan. Recently, Theresa lost her job cleaning in a hotel and the family apartment was broken into and looted. They lost everything including the roof over their heads.
I just spoke to Theresa. She and her husband want to leave South Sudan. In their best case, the united family would take up residence in the United States, but Theresa has told me that she will be happy to save as many of her children as possible. Poogi is my son’s friend from the Aran School in Tel Aviv, and I hope we can start saving the Galuak family by saving him first.

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